Sprint hopes fleeing customers will change their tune once they hear about their carrier's exclusive: the Harmon Kardon version of the HTC One (M8). This smart phone promises to make the most of every note that streams out of it—including the ones only dogs can hear.
Available on May 2, the HTC One (8) Harmon Kardon edition costs just $30 more than the $650 "regular" HTC One (M8) in our Ratings, a high-scoring model that already has powerful, great-sounding speakers for a phone. But the Harmon Kardon Edition promises more music machismo, beginning with an onboard 24bit/192kHz digital audio converter. That’s the same converter you'll find on high-end, high-resolution audio players that Harmon Kardon claims will bring out the best from uncompressed FLAC files. The phone can be yours for $680, or 24 monthly payments of $28.34. What remains to be seen is if it can do for you what a good set of headphones can't. Incidentally, the phone does come with a formidable-looking Harmon Kardon headset, which we'll also be testing.
Here are several indications that it may: The phone employs two technologies to make compressed music—particularly from streamed sources such as Spotify—sound uncompressed.
One technique is Clari-Fi, special onboard hardware that Harmon Kardon claims will "restore" the frequencies that were lost through compression. Clari-Fi doesn't actually restore lost frequencies, but rather creates new sounds based on what it "imagined" was removed during the compression process. In a sense, it runs the compression process backward and fills in the blanks.
The other sound enhancement is LiveStage, which parses out streamed music into multiple channels to simulate a surround-sound effect. In this case, the phone takes more liberties with the original music source.
You'd better believe our engineers are going to work this phone over when they get it in the lab next week.
The other note in Sprint's new pitch to music lovers was a discounted rate subscription to the popular Spotify music streaming service, which normally costs $10 a month for the no-ads version. The deal is structured similarly to Sprint's new Framily plans, which entice customers to bring in new "members" in exchange for lower rates. The Spotify deal works as follows: $8 per person per month for the 1-5 Framily members and $5 per person per month for 6-10 Framily members, with the first six months free. Unfortunately, the deal expires in just 18 months, so you'll be back to paying Spotify's $10 a month rate before you even finish paying off your Harmon Kardon HTC One. Non-Framily Sprint customers don't get a Spotify discount, but will get the first 3 months free.
While we wait for test results on this new model, check out the other HTC One series phones in our Ratings.